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Conversion tips

By Times Staff Report
Published May 29, 2006

-Use currency Web sites like  or  before you leave to determine the standard rate of exchange. Then you’ll know the markup when you exchange money overseas.

-ATMs tend to offer the best rate, but they have the same security problems as ATMs here: robbery and fraud. If you are suspicious of the device or the people hanging around it, move on. Before your trip, find out if your ATM card works overseas and to which network it belongs and what symbols to look for. Ask about transaction fees.

-Airports and hotels usually offer the worst exchange rates. Know the standard rate so you can figure out if the convenience is worth the markup.

-When exchanging money at the airport, don’t be confused by the two conversion numbers side by side. The lower number is what they will pay for your local currency; the higher number is what you’d need to pay to get it.

-Avoid currency exchange bureaus that don’t show both the buying and selling rate. By seeing both rates you can derive the profit margin — ideally within 5 percent. Places showing only the selling rate are hiding an obscene profit margin.

-Credit cards offer good exchange rates for purchases, but if getting cash, the interest rate may be much higher. 

-Rates at local banks are usually good, but may be subject to government regulations that add surcharges or fix the rate of exchange.

-To avoid violating local laws, deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money. Those black-market rates aren’t worth the risk.

Sources:; BootsnAll Travel; U.S. State Department.

[Last modified May 29, 2006, 21:30:38]

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